US Threatens to Sanction Iraqi Officials Over Protest Crackdown

Officials say Iranian commander behind suppression of protests

White House officials say that the US is prepared to impose sanctions on Iraqi officials if they are found to be involved in ongoing crackdowns against protesters in the country. They didn’t name any specific targets for the sanctions.

Officials said they are aware that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has been to Baghdad recently and is “behind the suppression of the protests,” and will sanction Iraqi officials who are working alongside him.

The recent US statements endorsing the protests in Iraq are heavily based on Iran being opposed to the protests and trying to save the Abdul Mahdi government. The US hadn’t commented at all until after reports of Soleimani giving top Iraqis a talking to on the priority of saving the government.

Reports suggested Soleimani had talked to top Iraqi officials, including Moqtada al-Sadr, and the son of Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Sistani has denied any understanding was reached, though Sadr went from endorsing the protesters to largely silent on the matter.

White House officials say they believe the sanctions would “be the best way to reverse Iran’s influence in Iraq.” The sudden US interest in early elections seems to be built on the idea that anti-Iran parties will be strengthened, though these parties tend to be nationalists who oppose foreign ties, including with the US.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.